During the Surgical Strike, IAF’s Attack Helicopters were on standby along with 70-80 Soldiers

The Army’s surgical strikes along the Line of Control (LoC) early Thursday that destroyed seven terror launch pads were carried out by 70-80 commandos from two separate battalions of Para Special Forces (SF) with IAF attack helicopters kept ready at four bases in J&K to address any contingency, sources told The Indian Express.

Commandos of 4 Para SF crossed the LoC at the Tutmari Gali area in the Nowgam sector of Kupwara some time after midnight, almost simultaneously with those of 9 Para SF between Balnoi and Nangi Tekri in the Poonch area, sources said.

Travelling a distance of between 1-3 km, the Para commandos reached their designated targets by foot, and by 2 am, started destroying the launch pads using shoulder-fired Carl Gustav 84mm rocket launchers and automatic grenade launchers, said sources.

According to IAF sources, Mi-35 attack helicopters were kept in a state of readiness, although their bases had no prior information about the impending ground operation, they said.

The Army had kept the LoC over an arc of 250 km under surveillance for the past one week, and shelling on various posts on the other side had started by 9pm Wednesday to confuse the Pakistan army, said sources. Extensive helicopter movement during the day on Wednesday was also undertaken as part of the plan to feign enhanced military activity in areas where operations were not being launched, they said.

Having destroyed the launch pads, the para commandos started moving back to the Indian side of the LoC when one of them received a minor injury from a mine blast. The injury, official Army sources said, was not on account of any enemy or terrorist action. All the Para SF teams had returned to the Indian side of the LoC by 4.30 am Thursday and the operation, which had not been given any code name, was officially called off at 8 am.

Army chief General Dalbir Singh has complimented all ranks of Udhampur-headquartered Northern Command “for the successful planning and conduct of surgical strikes on terrorist launch pads”.

According to official sources, forces deployed along the LoC continue to remain in the state of “highest alert”. They also rubbished rumours that the leave of soldiers under the Northern Command had been cancelled.

On Thursday, while announcing the strike, the Army had said that “significant casualties” were inflicted among the “terrorists and those providing support to them”. They gave no count of the dead.

Pakistan had responded by denying that the surgical strikes took place although its Army said that two of its soldiers had been killed in firing “on the LoC in Bhimber, Hotspring, Kel and Lipa sectors”.

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